With the retail world consistently trying to defy media reports that claim "Traditional shopping is dead!" and "Malls are dying!," fashion brands are turning their heads towards the growing success of the subscription model. Pioneers of the space include Rent The Runway, Stitch Fix, and more specific product offerings like MeUndies a service that delivers new underwear to your door once a month. Recently we've seen an uptick in traditional retailers elbowing their way into the subscription space with the Urban Outfitters family launching the monthly rental shop Nuuly and plus-size player Gwynnie Bee offering size-inclusive options. And since Amazon isn't one to miss out on adopting an emerging trend, we can now add Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe to the list.
Admittedly, I've never been all that intrigued by subscription boxes. The shopping model has always seemed to cater towards those looking to diversify their closets or those who are still in the process of discovering their own sense of style. After spending the last five years as a market editor (which basically means I online shop for a living), I've become very in tune with my personal tastes. But ironically, scouring online retailers all day, every day advising others on what to buy has made the act of shopping for myself feel like somewhat of a chore. In fact, in recent months, I've fallen back on wearing the same basic white tee and jeans outfit rather than go on a self-shopping spree. So what better way to remedy that than to have someone shop for me? At least after I've given them a list of parameters.
Like many people, I've become reliant on the ease of shopping Amazon for all of my basic needs (i.e. bulk toilet paper). And since the site has fully integrated Shopbop (a fashion-forward retailer it acquired in 2006), introduced a handful of in-house brands, and has become a mecca for cheap-chic finds, I've become more willing to test out whether my Amazon needs should also embrace fashion. Onward, ho!
What is Amazon Prime wardrobe and how does it work with Personal Shopper?
Amazon Fashion added the new service to its year-old Prime Wardrobe program just this month. It's a model subscription service users will already be familiar with — a "try before you buy" system that ships a select number of items to your home that you can try on in front of the comfort of your own mirror before deciding which items to keep and which to send back. With the addition of the Personal Shopper —which seems to be a mix of an actual live, non-cyborg fashion stylist and some Amazon AI voodoo — you get suggested items and styles based on your personal fit, color, styling, and current trends.
What does Prime Wardrobe's Personal Shopper cost?
The service is relatively inexpensive assuming you already have an Amazon Prime subscription. In addition to the yearly subscription, Personal Shopper users are charged a nominal fee of $4.99 a month that can be canceled at any time.
How do I sign up for Amazon Personal Shopper?
Initially finding where to sign up for an Amazon's Personal Shopper subscription was far from intuitive. The site had no designated section directing me toward the service. Instead, I had to filter through the drop-down menu to find the Prime Wardrobe section hidden amidst the fashion department options. Once there, an infographic informed me the service was only available to use via Amazon's shopping app. But be warned, once you have your phone in hand and the app open, finding the service is still not all that easy. Instead of fuddling with trying to find it in any drop-down menu, you'll want to type "personal shopper by prime wardrobe" into the search bar every time you want to access the service. Then, and only then, did I finally find what I was looking for. Dear Amazon, please fix this.
How do I create my Personal Shopper style profile?
From there you'll be directed to create a "style profile." Make sure to allot 10-15 minutes to get through this robust process. The following questionnaire is broken down into sections that take you through ranking certain clothing styles ranging from edgy to retro, selecting which Amazon-affiliated brands are already familiar to your closet, colors, items, and trends you do and don't prefer, a run-down of how you like certain items to fit, body areas you'd like to highlight, and a rough estimation of your clothing sizes. To top it off, Amazon asks that you also note how much you're willing to pay for each type of fashion item. (My comfortable spending space is less than $50 for a top but open to shelling out up to $300 for shoes depending on the brand and quality.)
After all that's said and done, you'll then be prompted to run through a dating-app like feature that has you swipe right (thumbs up) or swipe left (thumbs down) on an array of clothing items. One thing I did enjoy was that this is a feature you can consistently access. Every day, the "Love it or leave it?" quiz refreshes offering you new options to vote on. Ideally, this in turn allows your "personal shopper" to further understand and narrow down your style preferences.
Does Amazon Prime wardrobe have cute clothes?
For those accustomed to the speed of Amazon Prime, don't expect the same two-day turn around here. It took four days after I created my profile for Amazon to notify me that my Personal Shopper picks were finally available to preview. I was given 14 options from which I could to choose up to eight items to receive. For a first run, I was pleasantly surprised by the picks. I expected them to push their own in-house brands more than they did, but there was a fair assortment of brands, all with items that fell within the price ranges I had denoted. I decided to maximize my subscription and choose a full eight pieces, even if I was iffy on a few of them. I received a follow-up e-mail stating I could expect my items to take four to six days before seeing them on my doorstep. Luckily I was away on vacation which kept me from obsessively tracking my order in the four full days it took to arrive (someone please let me know if there are help groups for this).
My final review!
What clothing review wouldn't be complete without a few awkward mirror selfies (featuring a cameo from my cat)? To fully embrace my trial-run, I attempted to dress-up every piece as true to my personal style as possible.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: I wanted to like this skirt much more than I did. The print was cute (a quick look at my Instagram feed will prove I'm big a polka dot fan) but the quality — flimsy and somewhat sheer — left a lot to be desired. I might chalk that up to user error, however. I may have to reconsider upping my price range for bottoms above the $50-$100 mark if I'm going to start harping on about quality.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: Sadly this dress just didn't fit. I do own a lot of pieces from The Fifth Label, a contemporary Australian brand to keep an eye on, that I love, but the way this strapless dress hung was all wrong. Although a peek at the online model shows that maybe it's meant to fit this way (emphasis on the maybe). Either way, this one will be going back in the box.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: Remember when I said I forced myself to choose a few pieces I didn't care for so I could maximize on my eight monthly allotted options? This was one of them. But in a surprising twist, I loved these! I tend to steer clear of cropped wide-leg pants. Whenever I've tried the silhouette in the past, I just haven't found out a shoe combo that didn't make the length look awkward. In other news, I think I'm officially a fan of Daily Ritual, one of Amazon's in-house brands. I've purchased tees and even a puffer vest from the brand in the past that have become mainstays in my wardrobe.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: The personal styling service nailed it with this one. If I caught this hanging on a rack near a storefront, I'd make it a point to walk in and try it on. The slime-green color, the high-neck silhouette, the price point, and the overall fit were all wins in my book. I haven't worn anything from J.O.A. since my days as a fashion assistant at Seventeen Magazine where we consistently used its junior-friendly designs for photoshoots, but I may have to reconsider.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: Eh, my face says it all, this was one didn't hit home for me. I don't think I've worn a moto jacket for a few years now and I doubt I'll be jumping back on the wagon any time soon. The fit felt dated, the dusty rose color fell slat on me, and the material was way too light to genuinely consider in New York's chilly fall to freezing winter months. But I do have to note that the faux-suede material was buttery soft (apologies to whoever ends up with this jacket as I had to do the quick face-rub to confirm softness test).
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: I would like everyone to know it took me forever to photograph these pants well. This was the best I could do and I still don't think they do them justice. I was stoked to finally get to try an item from Find., one of Amazon's more streetwear driven brands. I didn't love these pants on me, but that might have come down to the loose fit around my waist. A pity since they were incredibly comfortable. I was sent the smallest size available so unfortunately these will have to go.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: There are someone's feet out there that these are a fit for, but they're just not mine. The shoes were too big (I'm a true size 8 so I would size down half a size if you're looking to purchase these) for me to consider. But these Sam Edelman shoes have inspired me to be on the lookout for a fun cheetah print flat for fall.
Ray's Try-On Thought Bubble: I cannot express enough love for these wedges. Disclaimer: I own four pairs of Loeffler Randall wedges that I wear religiously. I considered writing a short poem in ode to them, but then I realized you guys have been reading far too many words already. I love them, I'm keeping them, hell, I may even start wearing them to bed.
So, How Did They Do?
To be up-front, I probably won't be keeping my subscription for another month. There were many things the service got right from understanding and delivering on my wide range of style preferences (I enjoy a mix of classic items, trendy items, and more "nightlife" driven items that I can style into my workwear), to hitting all the right price points I'd be willing to pay for, but it just didn't introduce me to enough options that I wouldn't have already considered trying on my own. My other hesitations lie within the pre-mediated feelings I've already had about subscription services, most notably the packing waste. As I'm one of the services first users, the pieces I ordered had yet to go through a prior try-on cycle. Everything I received came perfectly packaged, especially the shoes. But while I tried to be careful and conservative when repacking everything in preparation for their return, the final product didn't look anything like something I'd be happy to receive in the mail myself. I haven't conducted enough research to understand Amazon's re-packaging process for returns, but with that much plastic likely going to waste, I can't assume it's all that ethical. Not to mention the "Try On Before You Buy" model relies on frequent back and forth shipping — be it via planes, trains, or automobiles, — that negatively contributes to the increasing carbon footprint.
On the other hand, Amazon's Personal Shopper service is a much more affordable option than many of the other retail subscription boxes I've come across. For those looking to cut down on frequent fast-fashion sprees in favor of creating a more curated closet, this might be a good option. While you don't receive the same one-on-one service that you would from a true dedicated personal shopper or stylist, at $4.99 it's an affordable alternative with a well crafted algorithm that delivers on its promises. If you do decide to try out the service here's to hoping you too discover your dream pair of polka-dot wedges.